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Supreme Court: DNA Tests Can Violate the Privacy Right

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Supreme Court: DNA Tests Can Violate the Privacy Right
Supreme Court: DNA Tests can Violate the Privacy Right
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The Supreme Court recently set aside the Telangana High Court order permitting DNA testing to determine the paternity of two children in a matrimonial dispute.

It says such a direction would be invasive to the physical autonomy of a person and also violate the right to privacy.

A woman had lodged a complaint of dowry harassment against her husband and his brother under Sections 498A, 323, and 354 and other ancillary provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

She claimed that she had been forced to cohabit and develop a physical relationship” with her brother-in-law.

The trial court allowed her plea, which was challenged by her husband and his brother before the high court. The high court held that such a DNA fingerprinting test was permitted under Sections 53, 53A and 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The supreme court noted that the substance of the complaint was not related to paternity of the children of the mother. 

The top court noted that the trial court and high court allowed the woman’s application mechanically, on the premise that the DNA fingerprint test is permissible under the law, however, both of the lower courts  ignored that the paternity of the children was not in question in the subject-proceedings.

A bench of Justice Aniruddha Bose and Vikram Nath said, “Merely because something is permissible under the law cannot be directed as a matter of course to be performed particularly when a direction to that effect would be invasive to the physical autonomy of a person. The consequence thereof would not be confined to the question as to whether such an order would result in testimonial compulsion, but encompasses right to privacy as well.”

“Such direction would violate the privacy right of the persons subjected to such tests and could be prejudicial to the future of the two children who were also sought to be brought within the ambit of the Trial Court’s direction. We, accordingly, allow the appeal and set aside the judgement of the High Court”.

The statement further added that the judgement under appeal, blood sampling of the children was directed, who were not parties to the proceeding nor were their status required to be examined in the complaint of the respondent no. 2. 

This raised doubt on their legitimacy of being borne to legally wedded parents and such directions, if carried out, have the potential of exposing them to inheritance related complication.

It was also noted that Section 112 of the Evidence Act, 1872 gave a protective cover from allegations of this nature.

Also the paternity of the children was not in question in the proceedings. The Court observed that the substance of the question was whether offences under the aforesaid provisions had been committed and the paternity of the two children was only collateral to the allegations on which the criminal case was otherwise found.

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